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My vulva has given me more than I could ever express. She was the gateway to my faith, and to my (deeply buried) sexuality. But, only after I told her she was beautiful. Only after I stopped hating both her and myself.

I grew up, as many girls do, being told that I was wrong, that I was unworthy, that I was dirty, and that I was inferior. I never believed any of it for a second. I was an extremely shy child, but was surprisingly assertive (and, occasionally, aggressive) in defending girls. I hated hearing people constantly talk about how girls were mean, and shallow, and needed male friends to “soften” them. As far as I could see, girls were kind, sweet, friendly, wonderful, and far more humble than the boys and men who insulted them. Of course, some girls did fit the misogynistic stereotype. However, I felt that their behavior was in reaction to how they were treated, how they were perceived, and how they felt they were expected to behave. I was upset that no one else seemed to be able to see this, but I was also upset with the girls for allowing themselves to be ruled and controlled by submitting themselves to the stereotype. These feelings that women are incredible, wonderful, and beautiful, no matter what this patriarchal society says, have always been strong within me, from the youngest age I can remember.

Even when I was told that my destiny was to submit to a man one day, to live beneath him, to follow him… Even when I was told that I was disgusting, that I was filthy, that I was secondary, that I was wrong… Even when I was told that my own body didn’t belong to me, wasn’t mine to make decisions for… Even when I was told that my body was literally the property of a patriarchal god, and that I was only being allowed to “borrow” it to perform His will… Even when I was told that menstruation was sickening, a painful punishment from God for something I didn’t do… Deep inside, I always said, “No.”

However, over time, society and my parents’ religion taught me to hate myself. I clearly remember, at age fourteen, praying to God through my tears to forgive me. What did I think my sin was? Becoming aroused after reading a love scene in a horror novel. I begged God to take away any and all sexual feelings, thoughts, and impulses. I got my wish. I scared myself so badly, and hated myself so much that I never felt the slightest bit of arousal again until I was almost twenty years old. I was completely cut off from anything to do with sexuality. I now see that I was so ignorant that it made me vulnerable. My freshman year of college, we took a survey in our Bio 188 class about sexual health and activities. It may as well have been written in ancient Greek. When I didn’t understand the first question, I turned to my two friends and asked, “What’s oral sex? Is that… that’s kissing, right? That means kissing?” I was eighteen years old.
Something slowly changed in me throughout my freshman and sophomore years at college. There was something I desperately wanted, but couldn’t identify. I began to tentatively research different types of feminism. I found Betty Dodson. And then, I found Vulva Love Lovely. The first time I saw one of her pendants, my face flushed, and I quickly scrolled down to hide the picture. I stared at my keyboard for a long time, and then slowly scrolled back up. After several long moments, something broke inside of me. Tears came to my eyes. I had never seen anything so beautiful. I looked over every page of VLL’s website, clicked on the links, watched the videos. For about two weeks, I spent all of my free time researching information, history, artwork, and books on the vulva, the Yoni, the uterus, and menstruation. There were all these women who loved their bodies, who loved each other, who accepted themselves, and accepted each other. They didn’t just respect each other… They adored, they loved, they celebrated themselves and each other. They supported each other, were there for each other. They openly talked about their vulvas, their uteruses, their menarche experiences… They celebrated menstruation, saying it was wonderful, it was vital, it gave life, and filled the world with beauty. They said their vulvas were beautiful, like flowers, or seashells, or butterfly wings… They called their vulvas “gateways to life,” saying they were sacred, they were holy, and they were absolutely stunning. They said that all of these most feminine of things weren’t disgusting, or weak, or punishments. They said that these things made them powerful, and strong, and beautiful. They loved being women. And, I wanted to be one of them.

I remember the first day that I took out a mirror to see if my vulva was as beautiful as all of those on VLL’s website. I remember the first day that I attended my Goddess Temple. My vulva led me to my faith. She led me to the incredible wombyn and Priestesses there, all of whom are now so important and so vital to my life. On a spiritual level, I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I’ve never felt so right, so content, so loved, so accepted, and so enthralled by life.

After I began to think of my vulva as beautiful, she gave me everything. I realized my own sexuality, found my faith, and became a member of two incredible communities of women—The Order of the Clitorati, and Temple.
My vulva was once nothing but an empty, dark, shameful hole between my legs. But now, she is a radiant flower, stunning in her beauty and power, the gateway to everything that makes me a wombyn who loves being a wombyn.
-Sapherea butterflies